By Umar Asad (Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan)
A Tragic Biopic
It’s the year for paying homage to the greatest minds of the 20th century with movies such as The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and Pawn Sacrifice giving a tribute to their respective protagonist. The three men were intellectual heavyweights of their time whilst having physical/mental disabilities.
The real challenge in all of these three movies is to steer clear of the traditionalist biopics, instilling some sense of emotion and involving romantic entanglement. The task is to stay away from standard templates which are hammered in our memories since time immemorial.
Stephen Hawking is afflicted with motor neuron disease (the worst of the three) which occurred early in his twenties. The resultant product is worth a watch and appreciation since it harmonizes the humanistic side of Hawking and his love life.
The movie takes a nosedive in the love life of Hawking and Jane minutes into the movie. He’s a nerdy doctoral student in Cambridge University in 1963 whilst she is working on her PhD in poetry. Hawking suffers from an on campus accident which gives way to his motor neuron disease. With the materialization of motor neuron disease, the protagonist has two years at maximum. Yet Jane remains with him for three decades looking after him and his three children.
The movie’s script is taken from Jane’s memoir titled Travelling to Infinity. The memoir misses out on tons of questions such as:
• How was sex?
• Did they fight?
• What was his work-life balance?
Stephen Hawking becomes a burden on Jane to look after constantly alongside with his children as his condition worsens. They have conflict of opinion regarding God and universe, but they are discussed in an educated manner and in purely academic spirit. The romantic flirtations are well crafted and definitely feel on a lighter note as the dark mood of the film sets in. The Cambridge background and English setting helps the backdrop very well.
The movie remains bent on preventing the depressing aspect of Professor Hawking’s disability and its effects on his mental state. The inner torment is missing one feels at the physical disability. Along the way, Jane meets a choirmaster who becomes a part of their humble abode.
The Protagonist Hacks It
It’s a Redmayne movie out and out, as he gives a stellar performance as a pained protagonist, yet optimistic in his outlook pertaining life. The most depressing scene is one where Stephen Hawking attempts to see his son by going up the stairs but fails to achieve the task which a toddler can. Redmayne excels at the muted distress and helplessness as he takes a nosedive into his character. Another scene hits home is one where they give up and mourn in silence.
The Theory of Everything is at best a tragic romance story portrayed by the director keeping a low profile on professor Hawking’s scientific achievements. The biopic excels at touching the heart of the audience. As the case with professor Hawking’s books, the movie keeps the mathematical concepts to a bare minimum.